VATICAN CITY — In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.
Responding to a question about women’s ordination to the priesthood, the Pope said that “there is the temptation to ‘functionalize’ the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”
“We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the sacrament of holy orders is out of the question “because, dogmatically, it doesn’t work.”
“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “It cannot be done.”
However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia, a view he said has at times been met with resistance.
“I had to fight to put a woman as the vice director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican’s deputy representative.
He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”
Women in the Curia “are few; we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn’t matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.
“I don’t have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn’t have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Laymen are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.
For example, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.
Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the Pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don’t want to fall into this.”
Pope Francis spoke during an interview with American journalist Phil Pullella of Reuters, which took place Sunday at the Pope’s Vatican residence and was published June 20.
In the interview, the Pope touched on a variety of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he has faced.
On the topic of women, Francis said that, in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.
“Women have an ability to understand things; it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.
“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia, if there were more women.”
Francis noted that some have said inviting more women into the mix might mean there is more gossip; however, he said he does not believe that would be the case, “because we men are also gossipers.”
Related to the topic of women, this week, hundreds of women will attend a pro-life conference aimed at empowering women through a uniquely pro-life approach.
“At this event by women and for women, we are coming together to proclaim that women’s empowerment cannot be attained by the oppression of other human beings,” read a statement on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference website.
“We are reclaiming the narrative of women’s empowerment; we are reclaiming our voice as the grassroots of the pro-life movement,” the statement continued, inviting women to join the conference for “three days of powerful presentations, fellowship, friendship and fun.”
The conference, with the theme “Pro-Life Is Pro-Love,” will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, June 22-24 at the St. Charles Convention Center. The event will include keynote speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions.
Speakers will include Serrin Foster, president of the Women Deserve Better campaign; Pat Layton, author, speaker and life coach; and Abby Johnson, founder of the abortion healing ministry And Then There Were None.
The topics of discussion include pregnancy loss, self-care, post-abortion healing and fertility and will aim to highlight the dignity of women through a pro-life lens.
In addition to Mass, meals and social opportunities, the conference is also hosting an art contest, which will explore the inherent worth of human beings, placing a particular focus on the dignity, beauty and strength of women.
This year’s event will be the third pro-life women’s conference. A 2017 event took place in Orlando, Florida, and a 2016 event was held in Dallas, Texas, drawing more than 500 women. Registration for the 2018 pro-life conference is currently open.
Catholic News Agency contributed the conference portion of this post.